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After All of Your Hard Work, Protect Your Credit Score by Protecting Your Privacy

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Your credit score can be used in so many aspects of life and business. It can be taken into account by financial institutions, businesses, lenders, employers and insurance companies when making decisions that will affect you. Your credit score may be used to determine payment amounts, interest, credit limits and eligibility for new accounts. A better credit score can save you money and provide better financial opportunities. On the other hand, identity theft or misuse of your personal information can cost you money and have damaging effects that can take a long time to resolve. Protecting your personal information is very important, and with the widespread use of handling business electronically, online shopping, online banking and storing personal information on mobile devices there are new challenges. While there are many new ways to disclose your information, there are new ways needed to protect it. The Federal Trade Commission provides consumers with education and resources regarding identity theft and ways to protect your privacy.

Protecting Your Personal Information Online

Conducting business online has become much more common. It is difficult to find a business that doesn’t have a website or online presence. However, with the convenience of doing business or performing transactions online; there are a few important things to keep in mind that will help protect your personal information from getting into the wrong hands. Daily Finance suggests using strong passwords for logging into or accessing your information and not using public information about yourself to answer security questions. Passwords are stronger when they utilize symbols, numbers and both upper and lowercase letters. Also, things like your high school mascot or city you were born in may be found in publicly available information. Someone could use them to answer security questions and gain access to your accounts.

Be aware of the security of your Internet connection or the security of the information sent by the website you are interacting with. Don’t log in to financial sites on an insecure network or public computer such as at a coffee shop or at work. Look for the lock icon in the status bar to recognize whether a website uses encryption software. This helps to protect your personal information as it is being sent over the Internet.

Email phishing has become a common way for fraudsters to gather information. An email is sent impersonating a company asking for your personal information or it contains a link disguising a malware or keystroke recording virus. Never respond or click links for an email asking for personal information. It is best to go directly to a company’s website through a browser search or trusted link, and ask customer service about the email. Be wary of using an automatic login that saves your username and password. It may be a convenient way to access a commonly used website but if your laptop or mobile device is stolen, a thief can gain access to your accounts. For this same reason it is best to never use automatic logging for online payment information.

One new way to reduce the damage of identity theft is to check your credit regularly, according to Forbes. A free credit report can be requested once a year from each of the three credit reporting companies in accordance with federal law. Also, some companies are offering free credit scores, like a Credit Sesame credit check, to allow more frequent access to your credit information. It is important to check this information for errors, unrecognized or suspicious activity or fraudulent new accounts in order to act quickly to reduce the damage due to identity theft. You can request that a fraud alert or credit freeze be placed on your credit report by the credit reporting companies.

Protecting Your Personal Information Offline

The principles for protecting your information offline are similar to those utilized while online. You want to store your information safely and limit the access to your information. Know why your information is being requested and don’t give it out unless absolutely necessary. This is most important with your Social Security number. Some businesses such as doctor’s offices ask for it but may not actually need it. The Federal Trade Commission suggests that consumers check with a business about the consequences of not providing the information before giving it out. Limiting access to your personal information such as your Social Security number will help reduce your risk of identity theft.

The storage of your personal information is very important and should be very secure regardless of where or how it is stored. Your physical personal documents, bank statements, credit applications and credit offers should be stored in a safe and secure location in your home and should be shredded when no longer needed. Similarly, securely password-protect your personal information on your cellular phone or mobile device and take the steps necessary to permanently delete that information before disposing of your device. If you are worried about the security of your mail, you can opt out of prescreened credit offers for five years or even permanently. Also, don’t give out personal information over the telephone unless you have verified who you are talking to.

Use each of these tips to better protect your personal information and reduce your risk of identity theft. When providing information to an individual or a business, know who you are giving your information to, how it is being used and how it is being protected. When you are protecting yourself from identity theft or the misuse of your personal information, you will be saving yourself time and money.

Last updated on February 19, 2015.

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